November 19, 2023 – Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
A livestream of this service will take place on our YouTube channel on Sunday, November 19, at 11:00 AM Eastern Standard Time. A video recording of the live stream will be available on our YouTube channel from 6:00 PM EST on Sunday, November 19.
Previous livestreams and other worship and musical content is available on our YouTube channel. You can also check out our entire worship services archive. Our SoundCloud channel has yet more music and worship content.
Lighting of the Christ Candle
This is the Christ Candle. We light the candle to help us remember that Jesus Christ, the light of the world, is with us in every place and every time.
Call to Worship
One: Let us praise the God of Truth!
All: Hallelujah! We seek God’s truth.
One: Let us praise the God of Peace!
All: Hallelujah! We seek God’s peace.
One: Let us praise the God of Love!
All: Hallelujah! In Christ we know God’s love and so we offer our praise!
“In the bulb there is a flower” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 674). Words and music (both 1986; tune: “Promise”) by American composer Natalie Sleeth (1930–1992). Words and music © copyright 1986 Hope Publishing Co; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
Prayers of Approach and Confession, & Lord’s Prayer (sins)
you take the night and give us day. You take our strife and give us peace. You take our sadness and give us joy. You take our fear and give us courage. You take death and give us new life. O God, you give and you give and you give. So we come to praise you and offer our love and loyalty as your willing servants in the name of Christ who enriches our lives with grace and in the power of the Spirit who prays within us when we cannot find the right words to honour you, God most kind and generous.
you placed your mission in our hands and gave us gifts to accomplish amazing things in Jesus’ name. We confess sometimes we’ve taken credit for what your love has done. Sometimes we’ve called our own desires your will. Sometimes we’ve stepped back and let others carry responsibilities. Forgive us when we’ve failed to honour your trust in us.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever.
Declaration of Pardon
Hear the good news! Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ – and Christ died for us; Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us. So trust God’s promise. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and given a new start by God’s generous grace. Thanks be to God!
One: The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
All: And also with you.
The Life and Work of the Church (Announcements)
Guildwood Choir Presents
“Chariot’s Comin’!” based on “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, traditional African-American spiritual. Additional words (1992) by American educator, lyricist and composer Don Besig (1936–) and American lyricist Nancy Price (1958–). Adapted and arranged with new music (1992) by Don Besig. Words and music public domain. Additional words, adaptation and arrangement with new music copyright © 1992 Alfred Publishing Co., Inc.
Fun with the Young at Heart (children’s story)
We sing verse 1 of “Jesus loves me this I know”
“Jesus loves me, this I know” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 373). Words (1859 or 1860) by American writer Anna Bartlett Warner (1827–1915). Revisions to v2 and v3 by Canadian Anglican priest David Rutherford McGuire (1929–1971). Music (1862; tune: “Jesus loves me”) by American musician William Batchelder Bradbury (1816–1868). Words, revisions and music in the public domain.
Matthew 25:14–30 <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible
14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’”
21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”
22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’”
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’”
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.”
28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
When Jesus was asked to teach his disciples how to pray, he instructed them to address God as Our Father in heaven—not as my Father, but as our Father in Heaven. Abraham Joshua Heschel writes, “‘What is an idol?’ Any god who is mine but not yours, any god concerned with me but not with you, is an idol. Faith in God is not simply afterlife insurance policy.” Faith is not just about ensuring that I get what I want but faith allows us to deepen our love for God and God’s love for us. Faith often becomes the source of love and compassion. We could easily spend hours in today’s sermon discussing why Jesus teaches us to pray “Our Father” instead of “my father,” but that is for another time.
Jesus blends two somewhat contradictory words: Father and heaven. Father symbolizes someone near to us, a provider of our needs who is responsible and trustworthy, caring, and capable of helping-a friend here on earth. Heaven signifies something distant from earth, lofty and beyond our grasp, transcending our understanding.” Our Father in heaven” embodies someone concurrently close and distant from us. God as a father symbolizes God extending friendship and intimacy, both offering and requiring them. Meanwhile, God in Heaven emphasizes God who deserves our humility, service, awe, wonder and praise. Perhaps in today’s time, here in North America, we tend to emphasize God as our friend, offering love and forgiveness, we tend to overlook the aspect of God that seeks our humility, awe (reverence), worship, and service.
Today, we reflect on a well-known parable of talents from the Gospel of Matthew, inviting us to contemplate God in heaven. Matthew 25:14–15 &19:14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. … 19 After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.”
The parable of the talents invites us to perceive God as the giver of talents, distributed according to our abilities, with the expectations that we utilize them in service to God. The parable also encourages us to look at ourselves as God’s servants highlighting the purpose of our life is to serve God. The parable of the talents serves as a reminder that our lives are both a gift and a responsibility.
The parable challenges us to go beyond the ordinary strive for excellence in our service to God, challenging us to give everything we have. The parable underscores the notion that our lives are a testament to honesty and hardworking. I have encountered many servants who faithfully used their talents and time, making a positive difference in their place. We can certainly conclude our reflection on the text at this point.
However, I must be honest with you. There is something unsettling — even unsatisfying about the parable. I believe that the parable of the talents is merely an uplifting (feel good) narrative of success, but a story of faith is meant to deepen our search for God’s grace in our life.
In my youth, I was taught and had subscribed to the belief that if we give our best, everything will fall into place. When we face challenges, the only solution is simply trying harder, trying more. However, today I don’t think our life is that straightforward. There are moments, despite our full best efforts, we don’t achieve the outcomes we desire. Numerous factors play in our success as well as in our failure.
Life comes with many unexpected moments of surprises, riddles, mysteries, and struggles.
Perhaps in my younger years, I romanticized the servants who were successful at investing their talents. However, as I’ve grown older, I can’t help but ponder the servant who was not successful in utilizing his talent. That is because today I can see myself, a part of my life, from the servant who did nothing than the ones who knew what they had to do with their talents.
This is what the master said to the servant who has done nothing, Matthew 15:26–27, “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.’”
May we pause and reflect on whom Jesus was telling this parable. He was telling the parable of the talents to the disciples and followers of Jesus, who were far from being considered successful by their faith community. Many of them were individuals labeled as unholy, failures, outsiders, and considered not good enough for their society. The fishermen, the tax collectors, the sick, the dying, the foreigners, and the prostitutes who had already experienced helplessness, failures, and condemnation of the society for not being successful, for not being good enough.
What lessons was Jesus aiming to impart to his followers through this parable of the talents? What does Jesus teach us today through this parable of the talents?
Does Jesus want us to feel good about ourselves for using our talents and celebrate our success and accomplishment?
Jesus has shown to us that God surpasses the role of a master assigning tasks to His servants. God is our savior, sharing in our human experiences, even to the extent of sacrificing on the cross for us. He engages with our struggles and failures, turning our lives, laden with challenges and disappointment, into vessels for the grace of God.
I would like to read Mathew 19:16–21, I believe this is what the parable of the talents leads us to…this is the question that a young man doesn’t know whether he has done enough to be saved.
16 Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness. 19 Honor your father and mother. Also, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
What does Jesus invite him to do? He encourages him to become a follower. To follow Jesus is to journey to the cross that Jesus bears. To approach the cross is to follow God even in moments of apparent inability. It is to follow God not out of capability but out of necessity and out of trust. Coming to the place of the cross is a process of converting our failures into the narrative of God’s triumph. Jesus invites us to reshape our disappointments into the tale of God’s hope.
“Will you come and follow me” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 634). Words (1987) by Scottish hymn-writer and Church of Scotland minister John L. Bell (1949–) and his Scottish hymn-writing partner Graham Maule (1958–2019), both affiliated with the Iona Community. Music (Scottish traditional; tune “Kelvingrove”) arranged in 1987 by Bell. Words and arrangement copyright © 1987, Iona Community, GIA Publications, Inc. agent; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music public domain. Arrangement copyright © 1987 GIA Publications; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
May we present our gifts to God in response to what we have received from God?
Invitation (Musical Reflection)
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of being present at Sunday worship, you may sign up for pre-authorized remittance (PAR), donate online, or drop off your offering envelope in the mailbox at the church. Do not leave a cash donation unattended in the mailbox; instead, please call the office (416.261.4037) to ensure someone will be there to receive it. The building will be checked daily for mail and phone messages. If you are not comfortable leaving an envelope, you are welcome to contact the office (once again, 416.261.4037) and someone will pick up your offering.
Dedication of our Gifts
Our offering will now be received.
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 306). Based on the tune “Old 100th” with words (1989) by English hymnwriter Brian A. Wren (1936–). Words copyright © 1989 Hope Publishing Co.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music public domain.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
praise God all creatures high and low;
praise God in Jesus fully known,
Creator Word and Spirit One.
Prayer of dedication
Faithful God, we offer humble thanks today for your generosity to us through the Church that bears Christ’s name. Receive our gifts as tokens of our love and loyalty. Use them to sustain the mission of the Church in ways we cannot yet imagine, in a future that you are creating through Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.
The Prayer of Thanksgiving and Hope
God of all life and each life,
We thank you that you are with us every day, in each challenge and opportunity. In our weakness, you are strength. In our confusion, you light the path ahead. In our questions, you offer wisdom for our choices. Stay with us in these days when so much seems uncertain, and help us to serve you faithfully, when and as we are able.
God of loving kindness,
Thank you for each moment of joy and celebration in our lives: for love given and received, for friendships which bring meaning and happiness, even from a distance, and for family members who show us glimpses of unconditional love. In all our relationships and interactions, keep us mindful of your call to see you in each another.
God of the nations,
we worry for the world filled with conflict and division, when the earth itself is put at risk by destructive human actions. Guide diplomats and politicians to look beyond short term interests, and keep the well-being of vulnerable people and the planet in focus. Open our leaders’ minds and hearts with wisdom to develop more equitable ways of ordering our common life.
God of healing,
we pray for those who are suffering in these days when winter is closing in. Draw close to all who fear the future. Comfort those with pain or problems that seem overwhelming. Shine the light of your love into our sadness and sorrows and show us how to comfort and support each other.
God of life,
We thank you for your saints of every age who continue to inspire us, and for all who have meant the world to us and now live with you. Keep us in communion with them and, at the last, bring us all to dwell together in your light. Amen.
Changing the Light
Now, it is time to change the light. The light that was in one place can now be in every place and every time going with you wherever you go.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (the risen Christ), the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you always. AMEN.
“Go Now in Peace”. Words by American educator, lyricist and composer Don Besig (1936–) and American lyricist Nancy Price (1958–). Music by Don Besig. Words and music copyright © 1988 Harold Flammer Music, a division of Shawnee Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
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